This morning as I lay on the living floor doing extremely uncomfortable physical therapy exercises for my neck, an unexpected thought popped into my head: I am so grateful I’m not angry all the time any more.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving so feelings of gratitude shouldn’t be surprising, but I wasn’t quite sure where this one came from. Yet, it is truly what I am most thankful for this year.
When I returned to work full time last February, my biggest fear was turning back into “scary mommy.” I had spent the previous two years trying to figure out how to be a calmer, less stressed person. Learning how to manage anger was a critical component, and to do so, I had to face my fear of this potent emotion.
Most of my life, I viewed anger as something to be feared because when you don’t know how to manage strong emotions, it’s terrifying. When you grow up thinking anger is bad, you feel guilty every time you feel it. When you spend your life trying to suppress anger, it bursts out in tantrum form. Basically, when it came to anger, I had spent 40 years with the coping skills of a toddler. A few years ago, I felt like a living volcano, ready to spew molten hot scathing words at any moment. The anger seemed to bubble just below the surface at all times. And because it felt so uncontrollable my anger terrified and terrorized me. I realized this morning, though, that my anger no longer controls me. By no means have I become some kind of saint bestowing nothing but love and understanding all the time. That would require a lobotomy or some pretty strong mind-altering drugs.
Anger is still part of my life because I am human (something I always hated admitting to!), and anger is part of being human. The difference is that in accepting anger as a natural part of life, I’ve released its hold on me. I can allow myself to feel it without fearing that it will consume me. And in doing so, I've opened up entirely new spaces within me for housing happiness. I will always have anger in my life—mindfulness training, second-hand advice from my friend’s therapist and watching Inside Out taught me that—but that doesn’t mean I always have to be angry. That is something my entire family can be grateful for.